What Is a Manipulative Learning Center?

Add dominoes to your child's manipulative learning centers.
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Manipulative centers are multipurpose areas of learning. According to The University of North Texas Child Development Laboratory, manipulative centers help a child develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as learning cause and effect relationships and how to implement trial and error. While moving through manipulative learning center activities, your child will use problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

1 Sorting and Classifying

Manipulative centers that incorporate sorting and classifying require a child to recognize patterns, similarities and differences. Encourage your child to sort plastic animals into two-legged animal and four-legged animal piles. Children can stack colored blocks into patterns, such as blue, blue, white, blue, blue and white. Young learners can also sort a bucket of washers, nuts and bolts by size or type.

2 Sequencing

This type of manipulative requires a child to see the relationship between multiple items and place them in sequential order. Your child can organize toys from smallest to biggest, such as teddy bears lined up from baby bear to big papa bear. Sequencing card games requires a child to look at three to five different pictures and place them in order. For example, the cards may depict getting ready in the morning, where your child would place them in order -- climbing out of bed, getting dressed, eating breakfast and brushing her teeth. Placing alphabet or number blocks in order also falls into this category.

3 Learning on a String

Sewing and lacing cards work the muscles in those little fingers while also improving hand-eye coordination. A child can either follow the pattern or lace her own design. Stringing wooden and plastic beads also works on the same skills. Older kids can string lettered beads or cubes together to create words or sentences.

4 Other Manipulatives

Puzzles get children’s fingers moving, develop cognitive skills, strengthen problem-solving skills and boost self-esteem. Children can use dominoes in several different ways. Let a child match the numbers on the dominoes, stack them, build simple structures or set them up in lines so he can knock them over. Magnets and magnet wands are also a beneficial additions. Plastic nuts and bolts work those fine-motor skills. Waffle bricks for connecting and building, pegs and peg boards, beaded mazes and a child construction set can round out a manipulative learning center.